To set the record straight, I have never dismissed or trivialized poor voter turnout. There are numerous reasons why a large number of Canadians choose not to exercise their franchise. Many of those reasons are demographic – age, social class, income and education. I have no idea how to change this, but I am sure that switching from first-past-the-post to proportional representation is not the answer.
Proportional representation has some dirty little secrets that most of its proponents choose to keep hidden. Wilfred Day of Port Hope let one slip out (re: Aug. 21 letter “Most Canadians want to end ‘unfair elections’ ”). He admits that systems of proportional representation have no local MPs.
The other dirty secret is the question of who gets to occupy the seats in Parliament and who chooses them. Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Legislatures are the only link (however tenuous) between governments and the people. Without them, how would a citizen cope with a problem with the bureaucracy, deal with passport issues or access grants? This whole controversy smacks of the age-old question about how many angels (or devils) can dance on the head of a pin.
Proportional representation just isn’t going to happen — for two reasons. One is that it would necessitate a constitutional amendment requiring approval of the House of Commons, the Senate and the unanimous consent of all of the Provinces. The second reason is that the parties with the most to lose would be the Liberals and the Conservatives.
Whether one likes them or not, they surely wouldn’t be stupid enough to give up their majority governments the present system bestows upon.
With all of the difficult problems and choices facing all levels of government, might it not behoove the proportional representation supporters to lend their energy to dealing with tough issues like deficits and debts, health care, infrastructure, education, pension reform and the environment — to name just a few?
William E. McLeod